SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on its way back to Earth

26 Mar 2013

Dragon conducts departure burn from the International Space Station. Image via NASA TV

The six crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have launched the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft back to Earth this morning, where it is due to splash down into the Pacific Ocean later today, laden with cargo.

The astronauts released Dragon from the orbiting outpost at 6.56am EDT (10.56am GMT) using the Canadarm robotic arm. Dragon is expected to fire its thrusters at 11.42am EDT (3.42pm GMT) to leave orbit, and splash into the Pacific Ocean about 344 kilometres (214 miles) west of Baja, California, at about 12.36pm PST (8.36pm GMT).

A team of engineers, technicians and divers will recover the capsule and bring it back to shore.

Dragon is bringing back about 2,668 pounds (1,210 kilograms) of science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities, NASA said.

The unmanned spacecraft arrived at the ISS three weeks ago, packed with supplies for the crew and the ISS.

Dragon had been due to return to terra firma yesterday, but inclement weather over the landing site postponed its return until today.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic